Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #19

How to use laser cutting to stand out from the crowd


The distribution of ‘freebies’ or giveaway items can be a powerful marketing tool, with novelty objects triggering conversations between stakeholders in new and interesting ways. When used to full effect, these products become memorable in their own right… and most importantly, that also means the brand identity becomes an integral part of the ongoing conversation.

For an exhibition showcasing the best student works titled ‘D& AD New Blood’, the creative design team from Southampton Solent University incorporated visual, conceptual and sensorial metaphors into their very effective event freebie. A neat little laser cut box was produced in the style of the ubiquitous Southampton dock packing crates. Inside, further supporting the theme of “Cargo”, nestled a macabre-looking glass vial with the top sealed in wax.


This small bottle of wine continued to play on the New Blood idea of creative juices being shipped out. All sealed in a laser cut crate with sliding lid and laser etched details, it held just the right combination of conceptual nostalgia and contemporary novelty to become an effective conversation starter. People loved the diminutive scale and the nonsensical utility of the object. This was all made possible through clever use of laser cutting to increase brand awareness. See more photos of the miniature crates on behance.

How would you stand out from the crowd with laser cut freebies using the Ponoko Personal Factory? Let us know in the comments below, and for more ideas for Agencies and Brands, see the other posts in the series.

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Building The Ideas That Build Young Minds

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When most people imagine laser cutting, they envision quirky personal projects or grand scale commercial ones. One of the last places you would expect to see laser cut designs is in a Physics classroom. But thanks to the inventiveness and commitment of one teacher, a classroom of students are now able to grasp the more complex fundamentals of Physics bother literally and figuratively, thanks to Ponoko’s laser cut designs.  

In this blog, written by Physics professor Matthew Jacques at Pentucket Regional High School we’ll see how Ponoko was able to build the tools, which enabled him to demonstrate his curriculum and ensure pinpoint precision each time. With Ponoko’s help, ideas that were relegated to just a textbook came to life with tactility and are helping young minds experiment and learn Physics like never before.

(The following blog has been written by Matthew Jacques, Pentucket Regional High School, edited by Samantha Herald and republished here on Ponoko’s blog with his permission)

When I am teaching physics, I always find myself thinking, “I wish there was a lab accessory or device to do this or that.” Most of the time the thought lingers for a moment and I simply push on with the materials we have or ultimately discover with dismay the desired equipment simply does not exist. Such occurred when I began the year examining the core concepts of motion. The unit studies how an object change its velocity and distance from one second to the next when accelerating due to free-fall. It is challenging enough to guide the students to the conclusions through inquiry based labs, but it is even more challenging when the equipment introduces extra variables. I purchased a set of gravity drop kits that operate through an original mechanical release mechanism that drop marbles from rest through two CPO photogates. The mechanical release mechanism did not drop the marble from rest and was terribly inconsistent. If a student was not careful, the mechanism would give the marble an undue initial velocity. I instead needed an electromagnet to drop the marble consistently every time. No such mechanisms existed that could easily connect with the CPO base stands; however these could be specifically tailored by laser cutting sheets of woods.

A few years ago, I created a personal project from, a “maker” service that can laser cut materials such as wood, plastic, metal, and more out of varying thicknesses with, of course, laser precision. The premise was simple: a blueprint design could be created using either Adobe Illustrator, InkScape, or Corel Draw, and if a line was “blue”, it cut the material and if the line was “red”, it would engrave a line. The design process consisted of determining what type of lab equipment was needed, taking measurements to integrate it with existing equipment, and going through design iterations on the computer. Choosing a material and thickness is a critical first step since it drives the overall design and dictates how the sides fit together. I chose a wood laminate, as it was inexpensive, durable, and easily assembled with wood glue.

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The cost of any Ponoko order is extremely variable based on the complexity of the laser cutting and the types of materials being used. Luckily, I was able to have an idea of the cost by uploading designs and receiving an instant quote through the Ponoko website. The quote allowed me to optimize the project and cut down on costs. For example, if you have two objects laser cut, by sharing a “cut line” between objects, you reduce the laser time and thus the cost. Certain types of laser cutting such as engraving an area costs far more than just creating an engraved line. Because I ordered the product through my school, I was given a generous 55% discount and a free subscription to their prime service. All in all, the entire order came just shy of $160 and took about two weeks from the time of order to the date of arrival.

The Ponoko order arrived in large sheets of wood which looked like jigsaw puzzles. After removing the paper backing, the pieces lifted out easily. It was a satisfying experience seeing the design on the screen become real and tangible objects. It is most likely the closest thing we have to the replicator on Star Trek. The parts were exactly as I designed them down to the most minute detail. Aside from some light sanding on a few pieces, the majority of the project fit together seamlessly.


The electromagnetic marble releaser (or EMR) was the most challenging of all the builds due to its technical nature. The EMR uses a momentary switch to trigger an electromagnet and a slide switch to enable an LED indicator. Maximizing its usefulness, the device can fit on either a slanted straight track or vertically on a base stand. As expected, the EMR takes out the human element of releasing the marble and produces a much more consistent release.

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Moving forward, I can only hope to think of and create more laser cut projects for class. No longer do custom solutions need to be haphazardly put together with cardboard and tape; they can instead made with laser precision. If any fellow teachers are interested in learning more or acquiring these designs for your class, please email me at 


Laser Cutting Time – With Friends!

Laser cut clocks, droids, horns, tags, leaves!

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Above is a dragonfly wall clock. It is laser cut and stained wood and comes from Sarah Mimo Clocks.‘s own versatile Birch Plywood could be used to make this beautiful clock.

After the jump, droids, horns, tags, leaves… (more…)

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #18

Topping off tasty treats with laser cutting


Tasty treats are a great way to draw a crowd, and as these playful laser cut cake toppers demonstrate, there can be so much more to the proverbial ‘cherry on the top’ if you’re willing to get creative with laser cutting.

This approach calls for elements that ring true with the strengths of laser cutting – a combination of crisp outlines, bold forms and delicate silhouettes that are uniquely eye-catching. Each individual unit is also fast and cheap to make, and will be resilient enough to withstand the rigors of more than a few rounds at events or parties. This makes them great take-home souvenirs or giveaways, with the added memorable twist of your brand being associated in a fun way with a tasty treat.


Using the cupcake as a base for their creative endeavors, John and Christine from Thick and Thin Designs have gathered quite a following with their cake toppers on Etsy; a few of which are pictured here. How does this inspire you to use the Ponoko Personal Factory to sweeten your corporate messaging? Let us know in the comments below. For more ideas for Agencies and Brands, see the other posts in the series.

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Ponoko designs & makes promo products from scratch for event marketers.  Hit us up for a free quote.

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Laser Cutting and Learning To Fly

Laser cut blueprints, lamps, cats, fronds, and ornaments.

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Above a custom chest. It is custom engraved birch plywood, like‘s own, and comes from DaVinci Crafts.

After the jump, lamps, cats, fronds, and ornaments… (more…)

Elliptical Laser Cut Boxes

Using Inkscape plugins to round out those boxed corners 


We all agree that laser cut boxes are handy to use as enclosures for DIY electronic projects and for storing little keepsakes. Adding your own personal touch gets a whole lot more interesting when you can break away from the traditional rectilinear form to create elliptical laser cut boxes.

Once again, the magic happens thanks to some clever programming in the form of a freely available Inkscape plugin. Instructables user Bas van der Peet has compiled an extensive guide to using this plugin, with a number of fun examples of what you can achieve when you round off a few corners here and there.


If breaking out of the box sounds like fun to you, head over to Instructables and follow Bas’ guide, then let us know how you go with the plugin in the comments below.

Make your elliptical laser cut boxes using the Ponoko Personal Factory.

Elliptical Box Maker via Instructables


Laser Cutting – It’s Alive!

Laser cut ladies, mushrooms, and hedgehogs!

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Above is a silhouette brooch of the Bride of Frankenstien from CABfayre. It is laser cut from black and white 1/8″ acrylic like‘s own.

After the jump, mushrooms, and hedgehogs… (more…)

Laser Cut Iris Clock

Time to reveal with mechanical precision

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There is something quite magical about the reveal that is the hallmark of a mechanical iris. Watching those leaves glide apart with smooth precision to neatly frame the circular opening is indeed interesting, but what about finding an application for the iris?

Over on Thingiverse, Joseph took inspiration from an existing iris and incorporated it into a laser cut clock. When you want to see the time, a small lever is depressed which activates the iris mechanism, revealing a laser cut clock face. Keeping the physical components of the iris exposed adds a layer of visual interest that invites interaction. Click through to see a short clip of the clock in action.   (more…)

Laser Cut Like New, Again!

Laser cut lamps, giraffes, and gumball machines!

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Above is the Branch Lamp. It is laser cut from reclaimed urban wood from Toronto. It was designed by LGA Architectural Partner and laser cut by Hot Pop Factory. If you don’t have any reclaimed urban wood sitting around, you could use‘s own Bamboo would work well – especially if you want to stay on the greener side.

After the jump, another lamp, giraffes, and gumball machines…   (more…)

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #17

Laser cut changes in scale: How small can you go?


We have seen how taking and everyday object and making it big can really change your perspective. The same thinking can be just as effective going the other way – when large objects become interesting and engaging by making them tiny.

No-one does this better than the clever makers at Everything Tiny. As we can see in the tinysaur example above, miniaturisation is an easy way to encourage a fresh, light-hearted response to your brand. Considered use of layering and materials can also help to create more impact, and also remember that small items tend to be fragile or easily lost – so a display case of some kind would be a handy addition.

How would you use the Ponoko Personal Factory to go really small? Let us know in the comments below. For more ideas for Agencies and Brands, see the other posts in the series.


Let’s Talk Ideas

Ponoko designs & makes promo products from scratch for event marketers.  Hit us up for a free quote.

Free Design & Quote »